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ton, 8th January, 1776. Drarnatic excellence is of slow growth, and requires long and severe study; it is enough if first appearences be received as promising. The characteristic peculiarity of Kemble's performance was not of a kind to advance him to popularity with a more rapid pace than usual. With all the res quisites for a fine player, and especially with a profound study of his art, and reverence for its difficulties, it must have required babit to familiarize him with the exertion of his own powers. The requisite mellowness and flexibility which make the actor seem at home in his part were in his 'case slowly acquired, and until he was possessed of these, big manner, afterwards so graceful, must have seemed stiff; above all, his voice, the strength of which was never equal to his other powers, must have sounded harsh and unharmonious ere he knew how to reserve and husband its efforts. We can conceive him, like the giant in Frankenstein, working awkwardly enough until he had acquired a complete acquaintance with his own powers and the mode of using them to advantage.
The apprenticeship to the stage is in most instances, as we þare already noticed, a severe one. Mr. Boaden is too grave to relate any of the minor misfortunes and hardships which his hero was subjected to in his noviciate, and repels, with some asperity, an account of Kemble and his companion breaking a gentleman's prchard near Gloucester. Certamly in Shakspeare's life by Aldiborọntiphoscophornio the deer-stealing anecdote would have been sunk from mere love of decorum. Rigdum Funnidos is more communicative, and hints at our friend's having banqueted on turnips and peas
fields for want of better commons. There are gripes and indigestion in the very thoughts of the unçooked pulse; and we can conceive that Kemble, who was reasonably, though moderately attached to better cheer, did not relish the circumstances which reduced him to sauce his banquet by a speech from Tiinon.:
-Oh! a root-lear thanks!
That from it all consideration slips.' The honest. Kelly has, moreover, told us that in extremity of distress, Kemble once personated a Methodist preacher; the thing may bave happened - bụt from what we know of John Kemble's opinions on religious subjects, we are sure that those who listened to the exliortation must have departed improved in heart and understanding. He was incapable of mocking, under any circumstances, the mysteries of religiou.
Ju 1778, like Robinson Crusoe in his escape front the raging ocean, Kemble began to touch ground. He was that year engaged in a respectable company maintained at York, under the management of Tate Wilkinson, famous as an initator himself, and as the subject of imitation in others-possessed of considerable judgment and taste-and whose well-selected company was, often draughted to recruit the metropolitan theatres.
Here Kemble's importance began to be felt, yet he still continued to act such parts as Captain Plume, and others ill suited to his powers. We are not sure that this necessity is, at an early period of the profession, to be accounted a disadvantage.. It prevents the ideas and exertions of a young performer being too much narrowed by a single cast of characters, and may operate in that respect, like the care taken by professors of gymnastics, to cause their pupils to bring into play successively the different sets of muscles by exertions of a kind appropriate to each.: Young actors may be benefited too by attempts which are unsuccessful, as teaching them the bounds and character of their own powers, which they may otherwise suppose as unlimited as their ambition. . There is even a wholesone lesson to be learned in experienciug the severity of an audience'; for while it represses presumption, it also shows the timid that thunder often admo-1 wishes without killing:
At York,John Kemble became for the first time acquainted with: his princely friend and patron, the late Duke of Northumberland, whose munificence makes 'such a distinguished figure in his i history. The officer on duty, belonging to a squadron of dragoons lying in York at the time, had somewhat bluntly refused to permit a few of the soldiers to attend the theatre ont occasion of some procession in which their appearance was desired. Kemble wrote to Lord Percy, who commanded the squadron; and his request was instantly complied with. The Duke afterwards ndininally lent Kemble the sum of ten thousand pounds, and converted the loan into a gift by burning the obligation for repayment after the fire in Covent Garden.
He had at York an adventure of another kind, tending to show him how peculiarly the most meritorious of the profession he had chosen were exposed to the taunts of the unworthy: On 8th February, 1778, while he was playing in Murphy's tragedy of Zenobia, Kemble became the object of the gross and marked ridicule of a lady who sat in the stage box.
She was of some. condition, and apparently enjoyed that sort of provincial consequence, which, when combined with a rudè disposition, makes country ladies now and then guilty of ill-breeding, such as would never be permitted to those of the first rank in the capital.
As to the insults designed for himself during the evening, be Had retorted them by looks of infinite disdain. His sensibility was noticed , in the box by loud and repeated peals of laughter from the lady and her echoes. At this, Kemble suddenly stopped, and being called upon by the audience to proceed, with great gravity and a pointed bow to the stage-box, he said, " he was ready to proceed with the play as soon as That lady had finished her conversation, which he perceived the going on with the tragedy only interrupted.'
. "The audience received this rudeness of the stage box as an insolent attempt to controul their amusements, and with shouts, which could not be laughed down, ordered the lady and her party out of the theatre.'-Boaden, vol. i. p. 26.
The lady thus most deservedly punished had interest sufficient to excite a party in her behalf, who insisted that Kemble should come forward and ask pardon immediately.
“Mr, Kemble on this, with the greatest firmness, and with some of that mingled astonishment and disdain, which he threw afterwards into Coriolanus, exclaimed “ Pardon! ask pardon! no, sirs,—NEVER ;" aud immediately quitted the stage.'-Boaden, vol. i. p. 27.
All subsequent efforts of an active faction among the audience vainly attempted to break that lofty spirit, which was as much Kemble's by nature as it belonged to any of the heroes whom he represented. He could but be brought to say,
““ Let me be heard before I am condemned: if, when I have explained may conduct, any gentleman, or set of gentlemen, will say, in that character, that I have acted unworthily, I shall cheerfully make any reparation that they may judge proper.
To this there could be no reasonable objection, and he was beard. His fine address, biş clear statement, his modesty and manliness, carried the cause, and contributed essentially to his progress in the public favour.'— Boaden, vol. i. p. 28.
The same lady, uncorrected by what had happened, made ah attack on Mr. Michael Kelly by the same obstreperous procedure, especially when he consulted his watch as his part required in the course of the drama, by exclaiming loud enough to be heard in the gallery,
Why, look there; la ! the fellow bas got a watch." I could not : bear this ; (says Kelly)—I admit I lost my temper; but I walked up to the box, and said, “ Yes, Madam, it is a gold watch, and reckoned one of the best in England," putting it close to her;-the lady was violently bissed, and ever after, when she came to the theatre, conducted herself with becoming decency.'— Kelly, vol. i. p. 306.
The indulgence of such impertinent humour on the part of the audience,
towards those who are tasking their best abilities to please, is akin to the display of ignorance, folly, and wanton cruelty which children exhibit in torturing the inferior animals. Fifty years ago the pelting the performers from the galleries was
so legitimate a species of amusement, that we think even Garriek 'was exposed to it, and when hit by an orange only ventured to say, after pretending to taste it, it was an orange, but not a Seville (civil) one. Digges, on another occasion, when subjected to some such insult, made a touching appeal to his former
situation as an officer and man of fashion My feelings,” he said,' are wounded as a man-I had almost said as a gentleman.'
Kemble argued with the perpetrators of such brutality in a different and a bolder mood, and as his unspotted character supported the justice of his complaint, there can be no doubt that the respect due to him both as a public and private character, and the spirit with which he maintained it, was a principal means of raising the estimation of the profession at large. An apple was upon one occasion thrown on the stage, which fell between him and Mrs. Siddons, then acting in the unrivalled scene between Coriolanus and his mother. Kemble instantly advanced to the front of the stage with the apple in his hand, and appealed to the audience for protection against this brutal insult. A person in the gallery called out in reply, We can't hear.'
«" Mr. Kemble, (with increased spirit,) "I will raise my voice, and the GALLERIES shall hear me.". (Gréat tumult.)
"«. This protection is what the" AUDIENCE owe it to themselves to grant-wbat the PERFORMERS, for the credit of their profession, have a right to demand-and what. I will venture so far to assert, that, on the part of the PROPRIÉTORS, I bere offer a hundred guineas to any man, wbo will disclose the ruffian who has been guilty of this act. (A murmur, only in the gallery.)
"I throw myself, Ladies and Gentlemen, upon the high sense of breeding, that distinguishes a London audience, and I hope I shall never be wanting in my duty to the public; but nothing shall induce me to suffer insult." -Boaden, vol. ii. p. 429.
The galleries, awed into silence, endeavoured to shift the charge from themselves. But, though Kemble thus asserted the dignity of his profession, and the claim which a performer has to be treated like a gentleman, there cannot be a question that he made enemies among the low and malicious party in the common audience of a theatre, who had hitherto considered the right of insulting the players as a valuable part of the privilege purchased by the half-price which they had paid at the door. These petty tyrants felt controlled under the superiority of a man like Kemble, but theirs were the right minds for bearing malice, and we believe that the dislike entertained against one who was willing to contribute to their pleasure, but not to endure their insolence, was a great ingredient in the celebrated O. P. riot. We return to Mr. Kemble's professional progress. He visited VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVII.
Dublin in -1783, where he was received with approbation. His sister, Mrs. Siddons, had now displayed for several months before the public that blaze of varied excellence which was never before equalled, and certainly will never be surpassed. Beautiful as an angel, she seemed gifted also with super-human powers. The horrors and the sorrows of the scene were alike her own; the boldest trembled, the wisest wondered, the most hard-hearted and the most selfish wept ere they were aware.
Her unrivalled excellence naturally led the managers to inquire respecting that brother who began already to be called the Great Kemble. There is a ludicrous story, however, of the meaning of the epithet being mistaken by the person intrusted with the nego ciątion, who instead of our friend is said to have sent to the metropolis his jolly brother Stephen as the greatest of the name who was going
The mistake, if it ever took place, was soon rectified, and on the 30th of September, 1783, John Philip Kemble made his first appearance at Drury Lane in the character of Hamlet.
It cannot be denied that this extraordinary conception of Shakspeare is one of the boldest, most striking, and most effective parts in the drama, and yet it is invested with so much obscurity, that it may be played in twenty different ways without the critic being able to say with certainty which best expresses the sense of the author. Hamlet unites in his single person a variety of attributes, by bringing any of which more forward or throwing others farther into the back-ground, the shading of the character is effectually changed. Hamlet is the predestined avenger called on to this task by a supernatural voice-he is a prince resenting the intrusion of his uncle into his mother's bed and his father's throne. He is a son devoted to the memory of one parent and to the person of the other, and yet, to do justice to his murdered father's memory, he is compelled to outrage, with the most cutting reproaches, the ears of his guilty mother. Wittenberg has given him philosophy and the habits of criticism-nature has formed him social and affectionate--disappointment and ill-concealed resentment of family injuries have tinged him with misanthropy—the active world has given him all its accomplishments.
“The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form.' To all these peculiar attributes must be added his love for Ophelia, and something which resembles an incipient touch of insanity; for this, after all, is necessary to apologize and account for some parts of his conduct. All these exist in Prince Hamlet,